David Cameron’s speech today at the Conservative Conference in Birmingham was interesting for all those concerned with the English Question. At last a section of the British Political Establishment, which for the last 15 years has been happy to see English concerns about England’s rights dismissed, came out with a proposal which partly addressed the democratic representational part of the English Question.
The English Democrats welcome David Cameron’s English repositioning. David Cameron infamously told Andrew Marr that he would not change the unfair Barnett Formula which gives over £1600 extra to the average man, woman and child in Scotland compared to those in England (or £6,600 more to the average family). He said that his attitude was because “I’m a Cameron (and) there is quite a lot of Scottish blood flowing through these veins.”
EVEL may be a very little move which constitutionally speaking is unlikely to work very well. Significantly it only starts to answer the least important part (representation) of the English question because it does nothing about providing an English First Minister or Government for all the English only departments which are currently controlled exclusively from the British legislature at Westminster.
Robin Tilbrook, the Chairman of the English Democrats said:- “I welcome the fact that even a politician as hostile to English national feelings, as Dave Donald Cameron, who infamously said previously he would not even encourage English people to celebrate St George’s Day since he wanted to be the “Prime Minister of Great Britain and not just England” and who said he would “fight the little Englanders wherever he found them”. Even he has nevertheless been driven by however unworthy motives of political careerism to partially address the English Question.”
Robin, who is a senior litigation Solicitor with extensive experience of Constitutional Law, continued:- “The English Democrats are confident that, as a solution, English votes for English laws will not work for the reasons set out below in the annex to this press release, nevertheless David Cameron’s move will start a dynamic process in which we hope that the British Establishment’s united hostility to England and their attempts to break England up into “Regions” will be ultimately check-mated.”
“David Cameron is a spinner not a conviction politician and his interest in making this move is entirely as part of the political chess game within the Westminster elite.”
“David Cameron has done this not because he has any genuine conviction about the need to improve English democracy, but as a canny chess move to put Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg into political check. The legislative process will require their Parties to either come out in favour of this move which will damage their Party position in the House of Commons or to oppose it risking a significant political backlash from the 60.4% or 32 million adults in England that identified themselves in the 2011 Census as being English only and not British.”
The English Democrats
English Votes for English Laws (“EVEL”) is a Westminster focussed political gimmick not a constitutionally valid solution to the “English Question” and cannot work for the following reasons:-
1. If EVEL is introduced without legislation it would probably be merely a procedural Convention, without the force of law. It is much easier for politicians to change Conventions than to repeal Acts of Parliament.
2. EVEL does not address who governs England (The English Question) and would lead to a situation whereby a non-English Minister could propose legislation but be unable to speak or vote in support of it. The Prime Minister (“PM”) appoints Ministers for English Departments. These appointees may be, and have been, from parts of the UK that are devolved and such Ministers are thus unaccountable to those whom their policies and actions affect. Similarly a PM can, and has had, control of all English matters even though they do not affect his own constituents.
3. EVEL does not address the issue of who scrutinises and revises laws for England. Uniquely in the UK it is only English domestic law that is passed to the House of Lords, many of the members of which are not from England.
4. (As in 1964) EVEL will create problems if a government is elected without a majority in England, in any such case the UK government would find it very difficult to pass legislation on matters that only affect England and would be impelled to break the EVEL Convention.
5. EVEL will not provide a voice for England either with regard to “Reserved matters” concerning, for instance, the distribution within the UK of Treasury funds nor in international fora such as the British/Irish Council or the EU. In contrast, each of the devolved administrations has both UK Secretaries of State and also Ministers within the devolved Executives to champion the interests of their citizens in these meetings and to influence the outcomes in their own countries’ favour.
6. All Members of Parliament (“MPs”) at Westminster should be elected equally across the UK to represent their constituents in the UK Parliament. EVEL will create two classes of MPs in Westminster. However since devolution Westminster MPs do not equally represent their constituents in all matters as they should do. There are now two categories of MP with reference to devolved matters; accountable and unaccountable. Some are accountable to the electorate that voted for them in all matters and some are not, namely those that have the power to debate and vote on English matters that do not concern their constituents.
7. EVEL is an unequal and short-term fix for a long-term problem. The constitution of the United Kingdom was unbalanced by Devolution and only a rational, coherent and logically defensible Federal system can realistically be expected to halt the slide towards the dissolution of the UK.